A lot of times when I see people writing about winter time, it is put in terms of the land “sleeping,” of a period of dormancy, stillness, rest, but I realized recently that I’ve never felt winter that way. It feels just as alive, as active, as other times of the year (well, late winter, when you’re sick and tired of it and ready for heat and warmth again, doesn’t feel like that, but that may just be me).
In terms of agriculture, of crops growing, and livestock maturing, yes, it’s definitely a slow time. But I can’t say that the land itself feels dormant; I wasn’t as in-tune with things on the east coast as I am at home, but even there, it didn’t feel like a “dormant” time. It never has. There is too much sharpness to winter for it to feel like a “downtime” to me.
Several years ago, I was visiting my parents around Christmas. There was snow on the ground, and I went for a walk in the field behind the house. I ended up looking closely at the ground below the snow, and was surprised to see so much green. It was covered with very small plants, in their early stages of growth. (I grew up here! How I didn’t attend to this as a child escapes me; perhaps it was just so normal I didn’t “notice.”)
Last fall, when I came home to visit and tried talking with the local land spirit for the first time, it felt – distant, somehow, though I was so new to spirit-anything that I thought it could just be my skill. But the land itself felt still, dormant. It was early fall; by late summer, the ground here is hard and dry, the wild grasses brown and done, though people will have gardens going for several weeks yet, until the frosts get too severe (first frost is around the time school starts up).
I am home again for a couple of days. Due to my original thoughts about my work schedule, and the fact there is a mountain range and a steep, dangerous side of that range, in between Portland and home, I wasn’t planning on coming out here until about a week ago.
A couple weeks back, maybe a month, when I was tending altars, the home land spirit unexpectedly showed up, or reached out, or . . . something, whatever it was, he (and this was the first time I got any impression of gender) asked if I was coming home soon, and I said, “Not likely,” though I said I missed him, too, and the land, and my parents, and it would be nice to visit, but alas . . . and then after some things one of my coworkers said, I decided to adjust my work schedule (the office is closed between Christmas and New Year’s, but some people work anyway) and come out here for a couple of days.
There’s not as much snow on the ground as there was several years ago, but the winters have changed since I was a child; they are not nearly as snowy, or cold, as they used to be, so the relatively bare ground is normal now.
Looking across the landscape, everything but the rare evergreen certainly looks “dead,” dormant, lifeless, inactive: the deciduous trees and shrubs are bare, the tall grasses are brown. But at ground level, it is a carpet of green.
At one point, crouched down and taking it all in, I felt so much life in it that I wanted to lie down and roll around in it. It is so very different from the stillness I felt here this past August.
And the “land spirit,” who it turns out has a much larger area of interest than this small patch where I grew up, is certainly not dormant.